Thursday, September 2, 2010

Delhi

{Monsoon Season in a City of Extremes}

We arrived in Delhi just as a record-breaking monsoon unleashed its fury. It took a few days before I picked up my camera. It took two weeks to upload and sort through the pictures, pick the words. The place is a sprawling, stewing cauldron of humanity at its most exquisite and its most loathsome.




Shirtless men urinate on the sidewalk while infotech entrepreneurs whiz by in German luxury sedans; street children beg for rupees in the eternal fume-choked embolism that is every Delhi roundabout. Barefoot women in psychedelic saris go about their business washing clothes in the make-shift shanty towns outside the guarded gates of Mughal forts and ancient mausoleums. The back street bazaars offer an olfactory deluge of street food, men's cologne, human excrement, burning garbage, burning incense; touters yell Madam! Madam! Madam! And everywhere, long-faced street dogs.




Gurus festooned in garlands of marigolds preach to the devoted, while Bollywood stars advertise another brand of religion to India's rising middle class -chocolate, data plans, whiskey, air conditioners- on billboards above. 




In the respite of the shaded forts, old men play cards. Pigeons roost on 16th century minarets.  Outside in the flooded streets the honking infinity of rickshaws, buses, Ambassador cabs and donkey carts churn through a septic ocean of monsoon runoff: the bilge water of a city of 22 million souls. 




We sought refuge from the fray and spent two glorious, Imodium-assisted afternoons exploring the quiet ruins of the Humayun's Tomb and the Red Fort. We sweat as we mopped up unfamiliar curries and daals with hot chipatis, then sipped tangy lassis to cool us down. We queued for two hours at the notoriously unnavigable Foreign Registration Office in the line marked NON-AFGHAN NATIONALS, parallel to the line in which AFGHAN NATIONALS waited to show whatever precious documents might extend their asylum.




Finally, after one week in Delhi, we took a train from Delhi (complimentary juice boxes) six hours north to a city near the border of Tibet, near the border of the end of the world, and ascended into the cloud forest of the Himalayan foothills. And that is where we are, and where we will be, with varying degrees of electricty/Internet access/the trots for the next three months while we attempt to learn a bit of Hindi.

And that is the update from India.

29 comments:

  1. Oh gosh I am SO excited for you.
    This is breathtaking :)

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  2. Welcome to eternally dynamic India.

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  3. That's extraordinary photography and a brilliant description. Namaste Lily and Pete!

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  4. Beautiful photography and just the right words.

    My husband and I will be in the foothills of the Himalayas soon too. I'm so excited to hear about the rest of your adventure.

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  5. I just knew your posts about India would be incredible. Already, this first one is stunning. Your description and these photos made me feel like I was right there with you.

    Sending you warm wishes and hopes for strong stomachs,
    Gigi

    P.S. I'm over the moon that you'll be part of the Legacy series!!!

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  6. I wanted to visit Tibet and Nepal for my whole life, and now you're so close...you description about India is wonderful. But India scares me. I don't know if I could face all those begging children and, most of all, all those long face dogs (I know I should be more concerned about children, but...I love animals like crazy) without breaking down. But I think one day I'll hold my breath and go.
    Namaste...

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  7. Sooo lucky to have this journey. Can not wait to hear more.

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  8. I am green with envy. I had the good fortune of spending 3 weeks in Delhi in 2007 - my favourite trip hands down. LOVED the city, loved the people even more.

    Your mention of the Red Fort brings back fond memories.

    Best wishes for your journey.

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  9. The first few paragraphs made me think, "Okay, I'm not that jealous, that sounds like a place that would give me a panic attack." And then I got to the last paragraph and felt my usual Lily jealousy.

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  10. Hi Lily!

    There you are! Wow, this is fun to travel with you. I knew it would be. We all wait with anticipation for the next installment.
    xo

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  11. these pictures are phenom - lulu-bird. i am so happy you are learning hindi and can't wait to come visit and see you dressed in a sari with henna on your arms. i want to be there with you more than anything! AMERICA MISSES YOU!! p.s those juice boxes are the bomb.

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  12. What an incredible post!! The way you describe India ... is incredible. I am looking forward to reading more sweet Lily. Sending you a hug, and LOTS OF LOVE!!! XO

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  13. oh my gosh. off to another 'end of the world' for you! so glad to see you have not lost your sense of humor :) thinking of you in your travels and adventures, hope your hindi goes well. can't wait to see more, trying not be envious/homesick for india.

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  14. Welcome to the land that I Love...the home inside of my heart. Beautiful, Incredible, India!

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  15. Ahhhh ... I've been waiting for this. What a journey, Lily! I can't wait to see your new home.

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  16. how fantastic! your photos and words are brilliant.

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  17. Oh la la incredibly vivid & apt descriptions, and such evocative photos, Lil!! Can't wait for bigbang to evolve into the wilds of India. And such a big smile to see a leedle piece of me is traveling with you, via Jonathan Franzen...

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  18. incredible lily, i completely blown away. So beautifully written.

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  19. Immodium assisted - bless you!

    Remarkable post my dear. You've captured it beautifully.

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  20. Good luck with the adjustment and with the immodium. Take care and travel with a joyful heart.

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  21. all i can say is....mega. lily. MEGA. so jealous and happy for you that you are in the himalayas. hope to be in that part of the world soon myself. xo

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  22. Lily ~

    You have described India exactly as I have always imagined it to be...and your words, your images, your raw descriptions still leave me looking forward to the day we visit this world of its own.

    I'm REALLY always happy to send care packages if your sweet heart misses anything at all...you just let me know. Seriously.

    Bisous,
    Melissa

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  23. Lily, I've been reading your blog now for a while and I find myself in that strange place of "knowing" you even though you do not know me. Just wanted to let you know how moved I am by your writing and adventurous, down-to-earth nature. Hoping for all good things and at least life changing inspiration for you and your husband in your new surroundings. So thankful you share!

    Sara

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  24. This is awesome. It reminds me very much of when I went on an internship to the philippines for 3 months. I remember those sad faced street dogs. There was nothing I could do to help them and it made me sad often.

    I understand the sea of people feeling. I remember it.

    here is a link to the blog I kept then.

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  25. "The Corrections" has my favorite opening paragraph of all time.

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  26. So happy to read this post - I didn't expect to see anything until Jaipur. Good luck with the monsoons, Delhi-belly, and teeming masses. We love and miss you and can't wait to see what's next!

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  27. Sounds amazing. So glad that you arrived safely.

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  28. It feels good to find such an interesting topic on the internet like this one nowadays. I was greatly interested with what you have shared and posted with us. Thanks for this anyway. Ex-Ses

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